Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Oregon Trail

I didn't know much about Portland before I headed out there for a work trip last week (remember that horrible flight? Portland is where I was going). Actually, the extent of my knowledge was limited to what I had gleaned from The Oregon Trail, that old PC favorite. Let me assure you that I did not die of a snake bite, or dysentery, or anything else. Oh, and I didn't have to ford any rivers. Although sometimes it felt like I might have to, especially since it pretty much rained every day of my trip. But I wasn't going to let that stop me.

Portland has a very East Coast feel. In fact, it reminded me of Old Town Alexandria. Brick sidewalks, lots of great small restaurants and boutiques, and very walkable. But the people in general seemed a lot more relaxed than us East Coasters; walking around I felt like I was always in a rush and they just seemed to be strolling. The downtown area is full of one way streets, and when there was nothing coming, I would just cross against the light. And those Portlanders looked at me like I was a crazy woman and a lawbreaker. What, I couldn't wait just 30 seconds for the light to change? Well, no actually. I had places to be!

Like Voodoo Doughnut. I first heard about Voodoo Doughnut from the television show Man vs. Food. With sexually explicit doughnut names like chocolate triple penetration and cock and balls, not to mention the overall yummy appearance of their doughnuts, this place was at the top of my Portland To Do list. So one afternoon after the hearings had been conducted, one of the judges and I walked over and got our doughnut on. And let me just tell you. SO GOOD OMG. I started with their signature Voodoo Doll doughnut and it was seriously the best doughnut I have ever had. The shop is open 24/7 and they have numerous and unusual doughnuts to choose from. So I bought 6. You know, in case of doughnut emergency.

Voodoo Doll doughnuts (one missing a bite). And yes, that's a pretzel stick stake through it's heart.

In fact, the best thing about Portland, at least to me, was the food. Every restaurant we tried was delicious with special and unusual menu options, and there is a big focus there on sustainable and organic ingredients. So everything was really fresh. And amazing.

The second best thing about Portland is Powell's Books. It's the largest bookstore in the United States. And seriously, you guys? It's freaking HUGE. It takes up an entire city block (or more) and the different departments are organized into rooms with bookshelf after bookshelf that reach right up to the ceiling. You have to get a map when you get in, or you can get hopelessly lost, which honestly might not be that bad since there are so many awesome books everywhere you look. And stuff that you can't find anywhere else. Powell's sells both new and used books, so any random thing that someone decides to bring to them ends up on the shelves, which means there are lots of gems just waiting to be discovered by the wayward book wanderer.

Inside the Science Fiction/Fantasy "room" at Powell's Books.

After spending the week at the Portland Regional VA Office, I had all day Saturday to myself to sight-see. I was supposed to meet up with my friend Wendy, but she got called into work on Saturday, so I had to amuse myself. Despite the pouring rain, I made it across the river to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to take a gander at their planetarium. I'm kind of a sucker for planetariums and astronomy. I think it has something to do with my love of Greek mythology, since so many of the stars, constellations, planets, etc. are named after myths. Anyhoodle, planetariums are my thing, and while at OMSI I got to see the Holiday laser show (I have always wanted to see a laser show) and a short lecture/show on the December night sky. In a cool twist, I was the only one at the night sky show, so I basically had my own personal planetarium presentation. And the guy doing it was kinda cute, so, bonus!

Luckily for me, Wendy decided to drive down to Portland after work on Saturday and we got to spend the evening hanging out. We got the best Italian food ever (at Mama Mia's on 1st Avenue), a bottle of wine, and then just hung out in the posh hotel watching Indiana Jones. It had been too many months to count since I had last seen her, so basically, it was a great Saturday night.

And you'll all be happy to know that my flight home on Sunday was completely uneventful without a hangover in sight. And thank god I didn't come through Chicago. Because that place is just a mess.

The Christmas Tree at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

The lobby of the Hotel Monaco, where I spent an entire week. Good thing it was so posh.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Worst Flight Ever

Before I launch into my sad cross-country adventure, let me just say, it was all my fault. I knew that I had to leave for the airport at 6 in the morning. I knew that Selvi's birthday party was the night before. I knew that drinking that many rum and cokes was probably not the best idea. But still. WORST FLIGHT EVER.

Here's the whole story. As noted above, Selvi's birthday party was Saturday night, the night before my flight to Portland where I would be spending the week for work. To celebrate her natal day, we had a 1920s murder mystery party (more on that next week when I get home and get the pics uploaded) and it was an absolute blast. Everyone got dressed up, acted in character, and the booze was flowing. Perhaps flowing a bit too liberally for me. And unfortunately, it had been a really busy week, so that whole packing thing hadn't really happened. Which meant when I got home around midnight it took me another hour to throw all my stuff into the suitcase. I finally got to bed at 1.

And the alarm went off 4 hours later. And then the hangover hit me. I had the shakes, was completely nauseous and just all around felt like crap. After vomiting a couple times (not kidding), I cowboyed up and went down to meet my cab. Then I got the call. For some inexplicable reason, the cops had decided to shut down the road by my apartment building. On both sides. Going both directions. So the cab was not able to come get me. So me and my luggage dragged ourselves down the street and up the hill to the church parking lot where my cab was. As you can see, things were not going well.

After arriving at the airport, my nausea only got worse but I managed to hold it together. And of course, I ran into one of the judges I was traveling with while going through security and found out we were on the same flights. So I had to fake it. And I thought I did a pretty good job...until about 30 minutes into the flight to Chicago. When I had to get up, make my way down to the lavatory...and get sick. Yes, folks, I have never had motion sickness in my life, but I was defeated. I spent the rest of the flight huddled in the last row clutching a barf bag and trying not to get sick again. Sigh.

Worst. Flight. Ever.

Eventually, I managed to sleep a little while, and when I got to Chicago and walked around a bit (and ate a bagel) I actually started feeling better. I slept more on the flight to Portland and 5 hours later felt human again. I even walked around the city a bit when I arrived and got an early dinner. But dear god, that was one of the worst mornings of my life. My friend Mac asked me whether the night before was worth it, and at 7 am I wasn't sure...but upon further reflection, it totally was. Nights that fun don't come along every day.

Next time I just need to remember, every action (i.e. rum and coke) has an equal and opposite reaction. Or, what goes down must come up.